More sculpture?

The Atlantic City Alliance and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority announced this week that they will be funding the installation of 40 sculptures along a bayfront walkway that connects the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and the Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

The project - to be called The AC Waterfront Sculpture Walk - will open in July with 25 sculptures. The Noyes Museum and Richard Stockton College are collaborating on the project.

We understand that art is important. We understand that thriving arts communities have helped redevelop many cities across the nation. And, indeed, we have supported the alliance's and CRDA's Artlantic project, which is designed to transform vacant lots in the city with temporary sculpture exhibits.

But the Atlantic City tourism industry is suffering big time these days - and the decision to spend more money on public art reflects a failure to fully understand the magnitude of the resort's economic problem and the urgency needed to address it.

Funding for the various art projects comes from an existing $6 million allocation from the CRDA, and Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell estimates her organization's contribution at roughly another $6 million.

Once again: Really? That's a whole lot of money for stuff that - it can be legitimately argued - will not bring one additional visitor to Atlantic City.

Oh, we know - officials say this kind of attraction will draw tourists to the city. But saying that doesn't make it true. Where's the evidence?

That $12 million could sponsor a lot of events and concerts. It could subsidize a lot of air travel to Atlantic City. Things like that would actually put heads in beds in the city's casino hotels. But a significant return on investment from $12 million worth of public art? Please.

Go ahead, call us philistines - hicks with sand in our shoes who think art is sad dogs painted on black velvet. Tell us how all the world's major cities have vibrant arts communities. Tell us how all this is going to make Atlantic City great again.

Well, a growing number of long-time local residents aren't buying it. And for them, this is personal.

These folks might not know art - but they know tourism. A century ago, their grandparents made their livings here, turning the hustle of a 10-week season into fortunes, in some cases. And 25 years from now, they want their grandchildren to be able to make their livings here.

They know this is Atlantic City's last chance.

And they know that more sculpture isn't the answer.


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